Community shops

Community shops are a sustainable form of business succeeding where commercial ventures have failed

In a climate that sees around 400 commercial village shops close each year, community-owned shops not only represent a better form of business, they directly respond to some of the key challenges facing rural communities today like lack of services and isolation.

They trade primarily for community benefit and their interests are linked into community control. Community shops have open and voluntary membership, whereby members are part owners of the business and all members have an equal say in how the business is run, regardless of their level of investment.

There are many models for managing a community shop: the majority are managed and run directly by the community, mostly by a combination of staff and volunteers.

A lesser number of communities decide to lease or rent the running of the business to individual tenants or commercial operators once they have secured premises in community ownership. Each community will find a solution which works best for them, but the model promoted by the Plunkett Foundation is to employ a shop manager and a team of volunteers. A paid manager can help to ensure that the finances, stock ordering and control, all aspects of legislation, and staff cover is consistently managed, and a volunteer team will contribute to the vibrancy of the shop, inject a range of skills and ideas, and reduce staffing costs.

Why are community shops important?

Community shops are an effective mechanism for safeguarding essential retail outlets in rural areas, but they also have wider social, economic and environmental benefits. With an estimated 300-400 village shops closing every year, community ownership is helping to preserve vital outlets and services for rural communities. The past five years have seen an average of 22 shops open under community ownership per year.

Community shops particularly benefit those who are disadvantaged by lack of personal transport, limited physical mobility, and those seeking employment or volunteer opportunities. They engage large numbers of the community and stimulate social activity and community cohesion:

Typical number of members involved
Average number of directors involved
Typical number of volunteers involved
Average number of staff

They also have a positive impact on the local economy; they have average turnovers of £161,000, support local producers and suppliers and create employment.

Community shops become the hub of the community and they host additional services:

Host post offices
Have cafes
Co-located with other community buildings

In addition to sourcing local food with lower food miles, community shops save rural residents car journeys to alternative food stores, saving on average an 8 mile round trip. Community shops collectively are estimated to save 4 million miles of car journeys a year.

Community shops are a resilient form of business:

Success rate of community shops
Average small business success rate
Community shop locations

We have support available for communities all over the United Kingdom to help save and open community shops. We can work with your community from the very first stages right up to beginning to trade, and beyond. If you would like to contact us about supporting your community business venture, please visit our Contact us page here.

Make sure you are following us on Twitter or have liked our Facebook Page for the latest community shop updates. Also, visit our networking page for details to join our closed, community shops Facebook group for advice and support.